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BANG BANG BANG: “The Fight Game” Returns, With More Punching Power

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The re-energized “The Fight Game,” Jim Lampley’s boxing magazine show on HBO, debuted last night (Tuesday, Sept. 16) after I went to bed.

The show, which debuted in May 2012, is still a work in progress, not surprisingly, perhaps, since it ran so intermittently, once every couple months. Now, Lampley tells TSS, the show, a half hour program, will screen once a month, til the end of the year, at least, and that will likely result in a quicker solidification of what works, content-wise, and rhythmically.

The longtime HBO blow by blow caller—-oh, and by the way, might this be an opportune time to ask why this erudite and mindful broadcast lead-dog is not in the International Boxing Hall of Fame? Should that not be rectified, on the next ballot?—kicked things off with a look at the “Cold War.”

Lampley brought us up to speed on the Hatfield/McCoy dynamic which has kept no brainer fights from being made, and HBO and Showtime and Golden Boy and Top Rank squabbling and/or ignoring each other while uber advisor Al Haymon moves his chess pieces in masterful fashion, but in a manner which sometimes benefits a select few over the masses, the masses being us, the boxing fans.

Lampley chatted on the Russell Jr-Lomachenko scrap, and the Bernard Hopkins-Adonis Stevenson-Sergey Kovalev stew, and noted that it’s been a year and a half since a Golden Boy fighter (Hopkins) will appear on HBO. HBO, you’ll recall, quite publicly threw down the gauntlet in March 2013 and went all arctic when they tired of what they perceived was Haymon’s disloyalty, in ushering his guys, after being built up on HBO, over to Showtime for better pay. The host said a “diplomatic thaw” is under way, and he had Oscar and Arum on split screen.

Oscar said it’s up to the promoters to have the best fighting the best, which is what he did when he gloved up. “My philosophy has always been in order to satisfy the millions of fans who love boxing we must set our egos aside and make these big fights happen.” Arum chimed in, “I couldn’t agree more with Oscar.” He called the lack of promotional intermingling a “travesty for boxing.” He said it’s just “idiocy” when one promoter says they won’t deal with another. Arum said he’d like to make a Miguel Cotto vs. Canelo Alvarez fight.

Lampley said that the Haymon presence, lurking, looming, overshadowing, perhaps, is seen as an impediment to peace. He said there’s much evidence to prove Haymon’s hand is causing desirable fights from being made. Oscar said under his leadership “a lot has changed.” That is, without Richard Schaefer around, things have changed. He has talked to Haymon about doing things differently and “he has expressed a lot of interest,” the Hall of Fame fighter said. (Note: A rumor is spreading that Haymon might be doing a mega-deal with NBC for content, so it remains to be seen how his power base will shift, stall or grow in the near future.) Oscar noted that the history between him and Arum is complicated. That it is; they have sparred viciously in the past. http://lat.ms/1qYrtAq

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But to his point—people don’t have to love, or even like each other to do business, and for the fans, which is what Oscar always comes back to, it would be helpful if the memories of these two are short, in this case.

“This will take time..but we will make this happen,” said Oscar on an up note. Arum announced he is looking forward to talking to Oscar later in the week. Solid segment, upbeat, informative, not lacking in gravity.

Next up, Lampley talked about Roc Nation’s entry into our fair sport. Peter Quillin’s career was referenced, and he called Roc’s bid on a Quillin-Korobov an “emphatic overbid.” He raised eyebrows that Quillin, having never been paid more than $500,000 for a fight, turned down the $1.4 million he would have made to fight Korobov. Lampley took aim at Haymon for self-serving steering, looking to match two of his clients, Quillin and Danny Jacobs, instead of doing that Quillin-Korobov bout, with Korobov being a Top Rank/Cameron Dunkin guy. Roc and their leader Jay Z have proven, Lampley said, “that they mean business.” Snappy, pointed, with journalistic chops, with an opinionated and populist edge, I enjoyed the segment. Would Haymon? Not sure, he doesn’t do media, so we can’t get into his head.

Next, Lampley went into Floyd Mayweather and his future. He said after two more fights, Floyd could be a free agent, and nearing 50-0, he might be an even bigger lure to bankrollers/broadcasters. Or maybe not…Lampley insinuated that Mayweather eschews risk to the point that fans really shouldn’t expect him to change that trait. Maybe he’ll fight Manny for win 50…or maybe that will never occur, the host said.

The Fight Game top 5, pound for pound, according to Lampley, who snuck in a Floyd/Fiddy/reading crack: 1) Mayweather; 2) Andre Ward, a choice which engineers message board debate, considering how infrequently Ward fights; 3) Manny Pacquiao; 4) Gennady Golovkin, another choice drawing dissective buzz and 5) Sergey Kovalev, which Lampley allowed might open him up for scorn, should Hopkins show the Russian to be more sizzle than steak on Nov. 8.

Lampley got in some love for HBO stalwarts Kovalev and Golovkin, and snuck in some Occupy type talk, telling us that it is up to US to push, to demand, to see the fights we want to see. He told us that he’d be wearing smart glasses for fights, which will allow us to see through his eyes. I appreciate anyone looking to employ current technology to bring our staid sport up to date, for the record.

Then, Lampley introduced regular Michelle Beadle, an ESPN personality. The un-shy Beadle, for whom my fondness grew when she went against ESPN orders and stirred the pot on Twitter against sometimes blowhard Stephen A. Smith when he stepped in it with statements on domestic abuse, couldn’t manage to caffeinate Terence Crawford. The 140 pound champ, on HBO’s short list of building blocks for the near future, spoke to the ESPNer from his home in Nebraska. I don’t know if Beadle is a boxing fan, but she was well prepared, and her professionalism was obvious. I expect her role to mature and to mesh better when she has a better foil than the soft-spoken Crawford, who is getting used to the glare and stare of us intrusive instigators. I was slightly distracted by Beadle’s face, a pleasant one which suggests Cameron Diaz. She sat with Lampley in the manner in which the reporter gets de-briefed by Bryant Gumble on his “Real Sports” show. This will give her an opportunity to showcase her relatively fearless voice, moving forward. The host took a crack at Mayweather, and his comments re: Ray Rice. Beadle said that she didn’t know how bad Floyd’s track record regarding domestic violence was, that he “beats (women) silly,” and that she doesn’t see him changing his ways.

This segment stood out for me as the most “commercial-ly” of all of them, in my mind. He faces Ray Beltran, on Nov. 29, in Nebraska, and on HBO. Then Beadle took off her gloves—Bang! Bang!—and finished by saying that she thinks Floyd will continue to add to his rap sheet. “Most likely,” said Lampley, in a strong and provocative capper.

The Gatti List came next. Omar Figueroa was the first mentioned who “gives you their moneys worth” win or lose, then Yuriorkis Gamboa, Marcos Maidana, and Evander Holyfield topped this edition.

Max Kellerman joined Lampley, on satellite. They touched on a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. They now need each other, Max said, because their PPVs are dwindling. “They need each other now, it can happen,” Max said.

What about Andre Ward? Will the fans still care if he keeps staying on the sideline? There’s that risk…but Floyd too knew how to steer his ship. Max thinks Ward has that same confidence and has “star potential.”

And Gennady Golovkin? Max noted that Marvin Hagler had to keep on hammering away against lesser lights before he could lure the Hearns, Durans and Sugar Rays. “Brilliant,” summed up Lampley of Kellerman’s analysis.

In his closing comment, Lampley hammered Mayweather. “If the goal is to push the limits of public taste to the point where the overwhelming preponderance of consumers simply wash their hands and want nothing to do with him or his fights, his blithe comment to the effect that the NFL was over-reacting to a videotape by suspending Ray Rice is probably a pretty good start. And his garbled apology did little to remove the stench. This was the absolute height of heaving a rock out of a glass house, and if he honestly thinks he can offer that kind of love to Rice without offending significant numbers of fans and observers, he’s wrong. The fact is, unbeaten record or not, consummate skill notwithstanding, Floyd Mayweather is often an aggressively distasteful human being whose behaviors are a blight on the boxing landscape. He also said last week that he will retire from the ring at the completion of his six fight CBS/Showtime contract, and in responding to the result of his most recent win, earlier in the show, we ignored that, because it won’t happen. But if it did, no damage would accrue to boxing. Fact is, for the betterment of boxing’s image, Floyd Mayweathers’ retirement cannot come a moment too soon.”

Bang bang.

Want to know what would be interesting? If the CBS deal ends, and HBO signs Floyd to a one fight deal, to fight Pacquiao, and that scathing commentary is still ringing in Floyd’s head.

Theater of the unexpected, the red light district of sport, the very best athletic avenue through which to examine the human animal, that complex and infuriating and evervating and catalyzing and tantalizing character, which I think Lampley is well suited to pore over, and then share his takeaways.

Check back for my debrief with Lampley, which took place on Wednesday late morning.

Follow me on Twitter for boxing news and the occasional broadside at callous titans engaged in public service whose sole mission is to enrich themselves. https://twitter.com/Woodsy1069

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Junto Nakatani Turns in Another Masterclass on Saturday’s Tripleheader in Tokyo

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In a rather odd juxtaposition, several of boxing’s best little men were on display today at Japan’s National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. The best of the lot, Junto Nakatani, improved to 27-0 (20 KOs) while tearing away the WBC world bantamweight title from Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (28-4-5) who was making the first defense of the title he won in Las Vegas in May when he upset Nonito Donaire.

It was a one-sided beatdown. Nakatani, who had a 5-inch height advantage, won every round before ending the contest in the sixth. The end came at the 1:12 mark when Nakatani terminated the affair with his second knockdown. The first came earlier in the round, the result of a straight left hand. The finisher was a big right hook.

With the victory, Nakatani became a world title-holder in a third weight class. He’s an outstanding talent, worthy of pound-for-pound consideration, and would be favored in a unification fight with Takuma Inoue.

Inoue, the younger brother of pound-for-pound king Naoya “Monster” Inoue, did his part to bring the match to fruition with a ninth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) was making the first defense of the WBA diadem he won with a wide decision over Venezuela’s mildewed Liborio Solis. That title was conveniently vacated by Takuma’s renowned brother.

This figured to be the most competitive match on the card and Ancajas (34-4-2) had his moments before Inoue ended the contest at the 0:44 mark of round nine with a four-punch combination climaxed by a shot to the liver. Heading in, Ancajas, who had a long title reign at 115, was 9-2-1 in world title fights and hadn’t previously been stopped.

In the first of the three title fights, 29-year-old Kosei Tanaka became a four-weight belt-holder in record time with a unanimous decision over Mexicali’s stubborn but out-classed Christian Bacasegua “Rocky” Rangel. At stake was the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.

Tanaka, who previously held belts at 105, 108, and 112, started slow but the outcome was never in doubt after he knocked “Rocky” to the canvas in the eighth frame. The judges had it 119-108, 117-110, and 116-111. With the victory, Tanaka improved to 20-1 (11). In his only defeat, he was stopped by countryman Kazuto Ioka. He hunkers for a rematch but, if it happens, he might wish that it hadn’t. Ioka is long in the tooth – he turns 35 next month – but is very good and shows no signs of slowing down. Rangel (22-5-2) had won nine straight heading in, but against questionable opposition and was making his first start outside Mexico.

The Teiken Promotions card was presented in association with Top Rank and aired in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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Rising Contenders Gor Yeritsyan and Cain Sandoval Stay Unbeaten at Chumash

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Rising Contenders Gor Yeritsyan and Cain Sandoval Stay Unbeaten at Chumash

Two Southern California-based fighters cracked the top 10 list on Friday in Central California on the 360 Promotions card.

Armenia’s Gor Yeritsyan (18-0, 14 KOs) captured the WBC Continental Americas welterweight title with a steady and persistent attack against defensive-minded Quinton Randall (13-2-1, 3 KOs) of Texas at Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California.

“This is my first step,” said Yeritsyan (pictured with promoter Tom Loeffler). “Remember my name.”

Yeritsyan was always on attack but had prior knowledge and preparation under trainer Freddie Roach for the counter-punching style of Randall. He pounded away while rarely unleashing more than three-punch combinations. It was effective.

Randall was never over-run by the strong Armenian fighter but he rarely stepped into an offensive mode. That cost him over the 10 rounds and all three judges scored for Yeritsyan who captured the WBC title and will now be ranked in the top 10.

“My opponent was a very good boxer,” Yeritsyan said of Randall.

In a super lightweight match, young firebrand Cain Sandoval (12-0, 11 KOs) met former contender Javier Molina (22-6, 9 KOs) and had his knockout streak snapped, but still won by unanimous decision. The Sacramento fighter now has the WBC Continental Americas super lightweight title.

Molina has never been stopped and showed why over the 10 rounds. In his 15-year career despite facing knockout punchers such as Jesus Ramos Jr., Amir Imam, and Artemio Reyes, none of his losses were via knockout.

Despite a consistent Sandoval battering from the third round on, nothing seemed to penetrate Molina’s defense. But when Sandoval directed his blows to the body it opened up more opportunities and the Sacramento fighter maintained control.

After 10 rounds all three judges scored in favor of Sandoval by unanimous decision, but his knockout streak was stopped. Molina’s streak pf never being knocked out continues.

“I thought I would stop him,” said Sandoval. “I just want to win.”

Other Bouts

Central California’s Jorge Maravillo (9-0, 8 KOs) out-fought Santa Ana’s Jesus Gonzalez (7-2-1) in a six-round super welterweight fight. Maravillo, who is trained by Max Garcia in Salinas, used crisp rights to batter the gritty Gonzalez especially inside.

Maravillo was sharp throughout the fight and though his knockout streak was snapped it took a determined Gonzalez to gut out the fight after being dominated in the fifth round. All three judges scored it 60-54 for Maravillo.

Upland, California’s Daniel “Chuckie” Barrera (5-0-1) floored veteran Jonathan Almacen (7-10-3) twice in the second round with lefts. The end came at 2:35 of the round when Barrera knocked out the Filipino fighter with a left hook in a super flyweight match.

Cuba’s Osvel Caballero (5-0, 4 KOs) was too sharp and too strong for Jason Buenaobra (10-10-3) and won by stoppage at 2:22 of the fourth round in a featherweight fight.

A super bantamweight clash saw Mexico’s Alfredo Castro (10-0, 7 KOs) and Riverside, California’s Ezekiel Flores (4-3) engage in a back-and-forth battle for six rounds. Castro could not miss with the right cross and Flores could not miss with uppercuts. But two knockdowns by Castro proved the difference and he won by unanimous decision after six exciting rounds.

Photo credit: Lina Baker

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Yeritsyan vs Randall at Chumash Casino, Japan and More

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Violence of an organized nature begins in the rustic and peaceful surroundings of Santa Inez, California as welterweights Gor Yeritsyan and Quinton Randall headline a 360 Boxing Promotions card at Chumash Casino on Friday.

Hours later, three world championship fights erupt in Japan. And hours after that, super middleweights tangle in Florida.

All will be streamed.

Undefeated Yeritsyan (17-0, 14 KOs) meets Randall (13-1-1, 3 KOs) for the WBC Continental Americas title on Friday, Feb. 23, at Chumash Casino. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Others on the card include undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval (11-0, 11 KOs) meeting Javier Molina (22-5, 9 KOs) in a battle set for 10 rounds. It’s a stronger test for Sandoval who has blasted out every opponent. Molina is one of the fighting twin brothers who both were Olympians.

Javier was an Olympian in 2008 for the USA and Oscar Molina an Olympian for Mexico in 2012.

“I’ve been hearing about Cain for a while, but I know my skills and experience will give me the victory,” said Molina who fights out of Los Angeles.

Sandoval, 21, last November won by knockout in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“Javier is a very good veteran who has had many more fights than me, but he’s never felt my power before,” said Sandoval who fights out of Sacramento.

Chumash Casino is located near one of the old California missions and built by the Spaniards in 1804. You can see open land for miles with the next nearest town of Solvang a short driving distance away.

Over the decades I’ve seen some memorable fights including Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley’s wild victory over Manuel Garnica in 2007 and Seniesa “Super Bad’ Estrada’s pro debut win in 2011 against Maria Ruiz.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tokyo Hosts Three World Title Fights

It’s a triple-header in Tokyo for real fight lovers.

Early Saturday morning at 1 a.m. (Pacific Time) three world title matches headed by WBC bantamweight titlist Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) of Mexico defending against Japan’s Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) take place.

Santiago defeated legendary champion Nonito Donaire last July in Las Vegas in an upset. He also fought to a draw against Filipino slugger Jerwin Ancajas who is also on this card.

Nakatani is a big hitter and two-division world champion. He is very familiar with Mexican fighters and often trains in Southern California. I saw him in Maywood, California a year ago. He’s quite a fighter.

In the other co-main event WBA bantamweight titlist Takuma Inoue (18-1, 4 KOs) defends against former super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (34-3-2, 23 KOs) of the Philippines. Its speed against power.

A third co-main features WBO super flyweight titlist Kosei Tanaka (19-1, 11 KOs) defending against Mexico’s Christian Bacasegua (22-4-2, 9 KOs).

ESPN+ will stream the card live on Saturday.

Matchroom in Orlando

It’s a showcase for contenders.

Brooklyn native Edgar Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs) “the Chosen One” meets United Kingdom’s Padraig “the Hammer” McCrory (18-0, 9 KOs) in the super middleweight main event on Saturday, Feb. 24. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card from Orlando, Florida.

Berlanga, of Puerto Rican descent, burst on the pro boxing scene by knocking out 16 consecutive foes. But ever since 2021 he has been unable to win by knockout. Five consecutive opponents went the distance.

Can Berlanga still punch?

Facing the Boricua slugger will be McCrory a 35-year-old from Northern Ireland who remains undefeated. To put it into perspective, the United Kingdom is filled with very good super middleweights and none have beaten McCrory so far.

Also on the card is Cuban Olympic gold medalist Andy Cruz (2-0) defending a regional lightweight title against Mexican southpaw Brayan Zamarripa (14-2, 9 KOs). Cruz has blistering speed and an aggressive style as a pro.

Other interesting fights feature bantamweight prospects Antonio Vargas (17-1) and Jonathan Rodriguez (17-1-1). Both can punch but each lost via knockout. Whose chin will prove sturdier in this clash?

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Gor Yeritsyan (17-0) vs Quinton Randall (13-1-1)

Sat. ESPN+ 1 a.m. Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5) vs Junto Nakatani (26-0).

Sat. DAZN 4 p.m. Edgar Berlanga (21-0) vs Padraig McCrory (18-0).

Photo: Tom Loeffler is flanked by Javier Molina and Cain Sandoval. Photo credit: Lina Baker

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